A Bible Lesson on Psalm 82

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a Bible lesson on a passage outside the current ISSL schedule, Psalm 82.

Psalm 82:1 A Psalm of Asaph.  God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

God has taken His place in the assembly.  The rendering “council” is apparently not so good.  The beings are here, not to give advice, but to be judged.  The picture is a gathering of the “powers that be.”  Exactly who is here isn’t so clear.  Maybe it is human judges and rulers who God has given positions of authority in this world, and in that sense function in a divine role.  Maybe it’s the supernatural beings of  Ephes. 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  In the end the exact identity of these doesn’t matter.  What matters is that God is judging those who judge in the realm of human affairs.  And we hear Him speak.

2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?  Selah

The final judge of all judges is God.  And His justice is perfect and impartial.  Those who judge and lead ought to tremble at these words.  It’s not a small thing to have the authority to judge.  It amounts to having the responsibility to be God’s representative.  Subvert justice and answer to God.  As a godly teacher used to say, “Selah, think about that one for a while.”

3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless.  How is it that those with no means can possibly expect to be treated rightly by the powers that be?  In most times and places, the answer is that they shouldn’t expect that kind of treatment.  When there is justice for the weak and fatherless, it is only because the those judging know that they will answer to the Judge with a capital “J.”   Maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute.

4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.  The very fact that God must make these commands is clue to us that this is not the way things usually are in human affairs.  But we cannot presume from what we see that the state of affairs on earth is consistent with God’s perfect will.  If justice is perverted, we cannot indict God.  God is patient with us, enduring our ill behavior until the end of time, giving us opportunity for salvation.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

2 Peter 3:13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:15a And count the patience of our Lord as salvation,

Thank God He has been merciful to the likes of me and you.

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“They,” it says.  Maybe “they” is the crooked judges.  Maybe it is those who those crooked judges oppress and mislead in their crookedness.

Hosea 4:6a  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;

Isaiah 59 speaks at length about the effects of crooked judgment in terms of bringing darkness, confusion on society.  One verse from that chapter is

Isaiah 59:14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.

Crooked judging and society slips into darkness and disarray.  In the end, the very foundations of sane society are shaken.

Psalm 11:3 if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

The “I said” is emphatic.  The sense is “It was I who said.”  It’s by God’s commission that these crooked judges, whoever they may be, are in their places of authority.  It is God who gave the divine responsibility.  And it is thus God who will call them into account.

7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

Nothing in the universe has its existence outside of God.  If these are human judges being judged, they, like all men will face death.  Present power doesn’t change that in the least.  Position and rank only brings with it increased responsibility, it doesn’t bring independence from the one true and living God or escape from the final judgment.  If these are supernatural beings, the New Testament confirms that Satan and his angels will share hell with human rebels.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 

Rev. 20:10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

And the people of God said “AMEN!”  This is the right response of the people of God when looking at things out of whack on the earth–to pray–to ask the judge of all to act.  Your kingdom come!  Come Lord Jesus!  At the end here, the interest isn’t in the identity of the crooked judges, but in God.  “Arise, O God and judge the earth!”  That should be the cry of our hearts.  Our hearts should ache for things to be set right.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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